Webcast Links Venus Event and Planet-Hunting

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March 17, 2004

Students, teachers and others are invited to join as NASA scientists preview a rare astronomical event involving Venus and the Sun during a live webcast on Fri., March 19, 10 to 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (1 to 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).

On June 8, 2004, Venus will cross in front of the Sun's disc for about seven hours, an event not seen since 1882. The transit will demonstrate a key technique being used to detect planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. Just as Venus crossing over will temporarily dim the light of our star, the Sun, a distant planet may cross over and block the light of its parent star. Several planned missions will hunt for such "extrasolar" planets as part of NASA's Origins program, which seeks to answer the questions: Where did we come from? Are we alone?

The webcast, called "Venus Transit and the Search for New Worlds," will cover the scientific significance of the Venus transit, ways to see it, and the extrasolar planet search. Classrooms and the public are invited to submit questions during the broadcast. The webcast is one highlight of Excellence in Science, Technology and Math Education Week, a national celebration sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and other U.S. government agencies and scientific societies.

Panelists include:
* Dr. Paul Mortfield, astronomer/host
* Dr. David Crisp, senior research scientist, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
* Dr. Lou Mayo, planetary scientist, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
* James Butts, Solar System Ambassador/astronomy lecturer
* Riley Duren, project system engineer, Kepler Mission, JPL
* Dr. Rolf Danner, research scientist, NASA's Origins program, JPL
* Dr. Victoria Meadows, astrobiology research team lead, JPL

Information on how to access the webcast is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov.
RealPlayer is required.

The webcast will also be carried live on NASA Television. NASA-TV is available on AMC-9, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees west longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical, and audio is monaural at 6.80 MHz. The webcast may also be seen via satellite at SBS 6 Transponder 8, 74 degrees west longitude, vertical polarization downlink frequency -11896 MHz. Audio is at 6.2/6.8 MHz.

The webcast is sponsored by PlanetQuest, part of JPL's Navigator Program, which encompasses several of NASA's planet-finding missions.

More information about Excellence in Science, Technology and Math Education Week, a national celebration week, is available at http://www.estme.org.

Jane Platt (818) 354-0880


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